Editorial: Medal joy so distant from sordid AB bug

It is one more sign of the corruption infecting sport, usually funded from gambling and drugs. Photo / Brett Phibbs
It is one more sign of the corruption infecting sport, usually funded from gambling and drugs. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Perhaps the saddest element of the hidden listening device found in an All Blacks meeting room in Sydney is that team managers had the room swept for just such a bug. It suggests this is routine practice now, which implies the team has reason to suspect they are being bugged. What is sport coming to?

It cannot be assumed the Wallabies knew anything about it. The scale of their defeat on Saturday night suggests they had no inkling of the All Black's tactics for the match.

It cannot even be assumed the listening device embedded in the upholstery of a chair was put there to bug the All Blacks. Many will have used the room before them. Electronic eavesdropping like this is illegal in Australia and New South Wales Police will have many questions, not least for the hotel and recent hirers of its room.

They also have a question for the All Blacks. Why was the hidden device not reported to the police as soon as it was discovered last Monday? A possible culprit, if the All Blacks were the target, is a bookmaking organisation and had the discovery been made public, intending gamblers would have been warned.

Or was it the media?

It would be comforting to think the All Blacks probably were not the target but there is no escaping the implication of the fact they had their room swept. They clearly expect to be a target of people who would go to these lengths to find out their game plans and problems.

It is one thing for sports teams to have spies lurking at each other's training sessions but to go to the lengths of concealing microphones in hotel furniture is the stuff of serious espionage. It is way beyond what could be considered sporting.

It is one more sign of the corruption infecting sport, usually funded from gambling and drugs.

It is a pity to be reminded of this just as the country is celebrating yet more success at Rio. The Games have worked their usual magic, putting the International Olympic Committee's supine response to Russian doping to the back of the mind.

The innocent joy of athletes such as our young pole vaulter, Eliza McCartney, winning bronze on Saturday, is a world away from the corruption of sport in Russia and no doubt some similar countries.

Sport is a business and no sport is a bigger business than the Olympics. But everyone in the business of sport will be aware that integrity and fair play are more vital to their business than perhaps any other.

When sport is suspected of being infected by the likes of drug cheating and match fixing, it loses an essential element of its popular appeal.

Sport is the way human beings find pleasure in testing themselves against others in ways that are essentially harmless. It is not war, politics or business, no matter how much it might sometimes seem like them.

We need to know sport observes a code of its own. When sportspeople have reason to suspect someone has gone so far as to bug their team room, something has gone wrong.

They owe it to their sport to expose threats to its integrity and restore our faith that it remains just a game.

- NZ Herald

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